As The Neighborhood Developers (TND) celebrates its 40th year in existence, the Chelsea-based organization is poised to announce its new director, Rafael Mares, at a celebration function tonight, May 31.
Rafael Mares, formerly of the Conservation Law Foundation, will step in as the new executive director of TND in Chelsea, Revere and Everett. He replaces long-time director Ann Houston who has moved over to lead a collaborative organization between TND and Nuestra Communidad in Roxbury.
Mares is a Revere resident and will replace 15-year director Ann Houston – who will be moving on to a new collaboration project between TND and Nuestra Communidad in Roxbury. Houston will also be honored at the event May 31.
Mares has been working at the Conservation Law Foundation (CLF) in the fields of housing, environmental justice and transportation – often working in the Chelsea, Revere, Everett area that TND serves.
“My work has always been on the state and regional level,” he said. “From time to time I had the opportunity work with Community Development Corporations (CDCs) in Somerville and Lawrence. I really enjoyed partnering with CDCs…So, I was particularly attracted to running a CDC in my own community of Revere…I always felt particularly excited about working on issues where I live.”
Part of the celebration will be to mark the creation of 400 affordable housing units in four years at TND, but Mares said he wants to do the same in much less time.
“My goal is to continue that good work, but speed it up,” he said. “We need to be working to do what we did in 40 years in a shorter time period. We need to be able to do that same thing in seven years…I think Greater Boston has seen significant growth and there has been pressure on people who have become displaced from housing…I feel in Chelsea, Everett and Revere – unlike downtown Boston – we still have opportunities for affordable housing unlike other areas where it’s rare. It’s extremely important to develop affordable housing before the opportunity is missed.”
Mares moved to Boston in 1996 to attend law school. After that, he worked at the Legal Services Center in Jamaica Plain for 10 years. Then he went to CLF. He now lives in Revere with his family, including three young children. Incidentally, his home in Beachmont Revere burnt down last February, and he is living temporarily in Winthrop until the home there is rebuilt.
Houston said Mares is a great follow-up for what she did, and she challenged him to speed up affordable housing development.
“I think maybe he can do even better,” she said. “I’m going to challenge him to do that much development in six years.”
CLF President Bradley Campbell wished Mares well and said he is very capable.
Rafael has been a steadfast advocate for healthy communities across New England,” said Campbell. “His work ensuring equitable access to the MBTA and fighting for environmental justice in places like Lawrence, Massachusetts will have a lasting impact on countless lives. All of us at CLF will certainly miss his energy and the passion he showed for his work over the last nine years.”
City Manager Tom Ambrosino said he is looking forward to working with him.
“I’m excited for TND and have a great deal of respect for Rafael,” he said. “He was a tremendous advocate at CLF. I feel he’s capable, straight forward and helpful. I’m looking forward to him taking on this new role.”
For Houston, she will be moving on to head up a new collaboration called OppCo, which offers services to CDCs – with the founding collaborators being TND and Nuestra.
She said there are a lot of things that can be done to scale, such as some services and administration of CDCs. However, she said they are looking to create something that keeps the power local and keeps the local touch in place while also saving money on combining services.
“The challenge we face is our work grows increasingly complex and to be efficient, we need greater scale,” she said. “You see savings, but you can lose that local connection. That connection is our most precious resource and we can’t lose that. TND has always been an organization that didn’t do well having to make a choice…OppCo is the answer to how we can do both.”
She said some of the services could include financial management, real estate development, asset management, residential services, data analysis.
“We hope OppCo becomes something that allows CDCs to increase capacity to serve local communities without sacrificing that local connection,” she said. “We’re encouraged by the excitement it’s received from CDCs so far.”
OppCo was in the planning stages all last year, and was launched officially on April 1.
The TND 40th Anniversary Gala and Annual Meeting will take place tonight, May 31, at 6 p.m. in the Homewood Suites in Chelsea. The guest speaker will be Congressman Michael Capuano, with honorees being Mike Sandoval (partner of the year), Inocencia Perez (volunteer of the year) and Jan Dumas (Revere member of the year).
The Neighborhood Developers (TND) will announce its new director on May 31 just as it honors its outgoing, long-time Director Ann Houston.
Trey Greer of TND told the Record that the big announcement for their new director will come during their 40th Anniversary Annual Meeting at the Homewood Suites in Chelsea on May 31.
“Part of this process is that Ann Houston, TND’s Executive Director,
will be moving up to lead this new partnership,” he wrote in an e-mail. “Ann really defined the TND we all know today. And so, TND will be taking on a new Executive Director. They will be announced at our Annual Celebration on May 31.”
Houston has been the director of TND for quite some time, but an announcement came this month officially that she would be transitioning to a larger role that would encompass TND and Roxbury’s Nuestra Comunidad Development Corp.
It’s called OppCo, and it will involve preparing partner CDCs for the next generation of our work: building homes, supporting communities, and fostering opportunities.
The 40th Anniversary comes on May 31st at Homewood suites in
The Neighborhood Developers (TND) announced this week in a release ahead of its 40th Anniversary celebration that long-time Executive Director Ann Houston will be departing to become the new CEO of a new, merged community development corporation.
“TND will honor outgoing Executive Director Ann Houston as she takes on the new role of CEO of Opportunity Communities, where she will continue to provide leadership and vision to TND through this exciting new partnership,” read the announcement.
Houston was not immediately available for comment on the move.
TND declined to comment on the matter as well this week.
The announcement indicated Houston would be the new CEO of Opportunity Communities.
That new collaboration is with Roxbury’s Nuestra Communidad Community Development Corporation (CDC), a partnership between that organization and TND that launched in April.
“In April 2018, we launched a company for back office operations known as Opportunity Communities (OppCo) with a sister organization, The Neighbor Developers (TND), based in Chelsea,” read the website for the new partnership. “This is our newest partnership, designed to achieve better results for the Roxbury, Dorchester and Mattapan neighborhoods we serve. There is no change to Nuestra’s board, staff, leadership, mission, office, programs, projects, agreements, relationships and commitments to neighbors and local stakeholders.
“This new company allows Nuestra and TND to combine our back office operations and staff,” it continued. “By centralizing our accounting, purchasing, data collection, HR, IT and other management functions, Nuestra can most efficiently deliver high-quality, effective services and programs for Roxbury, Dorchester and Mattapan.”
Houston has been the face of TND since it planted its flag in the Box District many years ago and built out several blocks of what used to be derelict industrial properties. Using a formula of creating civic awareness in a mixed-income development of subsidized and market-rate housing, TND created a successful model in the Box District.
Since that time, they have developed other properties in Chelsea, including the old American Legion Post that houses homeless veterans in supportive housing. They are currently developing the old French Club into affordable housing.
In year’s past, TND moved into Revere to develop affordable and senior housing there. It has just expanded to Everett, where a proposal is on the table for a large senior housing development there on the former site of St. Therese’s Church campus.
The Neighborhood Developers (TND) and Roca announced on Tuesday afternoon the completion of Lewis Latimer Place in Chelsea – a four-unit supportive housing development on the Shawmut Street site of the birthplace of Lewis Latimer.
With the support of the City of Chelsea, and other funding partners, The Neighborhood Developers has redeveloped the formerly vacant site into four, two-bedroom homes. The newly constructed apartments at Lewis Latimer Place will soon provide homes for at-risk, or high-risk young pregnant or parenting families. The new apartments will provide affordable, energy efficient and healthy living located not far from the many amenities in downtown Chelsea.
“We wanted to think of solutions for high-risk people with children who don’t have housing,” said TND Director Ann Houston. “It’s hard enough to change risky behaviors and then to be a parent when you don’t have a home makes it so much harder. We thought about what we needed and looked at what would work and the Lewis Latimer home was born. This is four units and that’s a small drop in the bucket, but please see this as the first of many locations providing these types of housing and supports.”
The new building is named after Lewis Latimer, who was born in 1848 in a building that formerly occupied this site. The son of a runaway slave, Latimer executed the drawings for Alexander Graham Bell’s patent for the telephone and invented a carbon filament to make electric lights longer lasting and more affordable. The ribbon cutting will include the unveiling of a plaque in Latimer’s honor. The plaque is a collaboration with Chelsea’s Lewis H. Latimer Society – headed up by City Councillor Leo Robinson and his brother, Ron Robinson.
“This is a big day for us,” said Ron. “We’ve been at it 18 years now to try to get something in Chelsea named for Lewis Latimer. We wanted to build a legacy and it’s forming now. Hopefully, three blocks up the street will be the Lewis Latimer Park…When we first started, there wasn’t a lot of information about him – a paragraph here or a museum there. We are now part of an organization united all along the eastern seaboard. We found this organization to use Latimer as a role model for young people to show that you can accomplish anything and overcome any obstacle with education.”
Lewis Latimer Place represents a new collaborative effort between TND and Roca pairing affordable homes with supportive services tailored to family needs. Roca is an experienced and nationally-recognized service provider that has helped more than 20,000 young people change their behaviors and transform their lives. Roca has partnered with TND to provide supportive services to residents, addressing interpersonal relationships, stage-based education, life skills and parenting supports, and employment programming.
“This is an exciting day. We are honored to collaborate with TND, the City of Chelsea and the funders on this great project, said Molly Baldwin, Founder and CEO of Roca. “Supporting young people, one cluster of apartments at a time, will promise that our community helps young parents and families move towards stable and happy lives.”
The Lewis Latimer project team included Timberline Construction Corporation and Horne + Johnson / StepONE architects.
The project was also made possible with the support of the City of Chelsea, the Massachusetts Department of Housing and Community Development, the Massachusetts Housing Investment Corporation, Boston Private Bank, Community Economic Development Assistance Corporation, North Suburban Consortium, MassDevelopment, MassHousing, and Charlesbank Homes.
When neighbors rose up in arms against the former, 60-unit affordable housing apartment building on the old French Club site at Spencer Avenue, TND got the brunt of neighborhood frustration, and this week the organization said it has listened to those concerns and has a new plan.
After a productive meeting in October with neighbors, TND has unveiled a plan for 34 units of affordable housing with 34 parking spots in a four-story building and a return of the Spencer Avenue extension that was once taken by eminent domain for the larger project – which proposed 60 unit and around 52 parking spots.
“We have been listening very closely and have made significant changes to this proposal,” said Emily Loomis, director of real estate development at TND. “We reduced the size of the building to four stories, brought it down from 60 to 34 apartments, increased our off-street parking ratio to provide one space for each apartment, and will be keeping that section of Spencer Avenue open because we listened to our neighbors. Our conversations, phone calls, and meetings brought their ideas to the table and I am very happy with what we have designed. All along, we have been hearing a common concern across Chelsea about rents going up, and people getting pushed out. High-quality, affordable apartments directly address this concern.”
The proposal will have five one-bedroom units, 22 two-bedroom units and seven three-bedroom units. There will also be a public community room available and a common area.
A hearing at the Zoning Board of Appeal (ZBA) is scheduled now for Dec. 8, and the Planning Board will take it up on Dec. 15.
Councillor Matt Frank said he is taking a measured approach and hasn’t seen the full plans yet.
“The French Club proposal is one I’m still waiting on and don’t have a comment just yet,” he said. “They brought the numbers of units down to 34 apartments and gave the street back. Until everything is out for everyone to see, I can’t form a total opinion.”
All apartments in the proposal will be rented to households earning no more than 60 percent of the Area Median Income. For example, the maximum income for a family of four is currently about $59,000. By comparison, the average family income in the surrounding census tract is about $57,000, according to the American Community Survey. As housing costs continue to rise throughout Chelsea, this project will fill an immediate need for high-quality homes that will stay affordable over the long term, said Loomis.
The term of the affordable units is to be around 30 years, and locked into the percentages stated above.
TND affirmed that the project is important to keeping the City affordable for working families.
Loomis said this project would have an average rent of around $1,300, including heat and hot water. By comparison, she said, 550 market-rate units h
A new rendering of the plans for the French Club affordable housing building. The project is to be developed by TND and was scaled back due to neighbors protesting the previous plans.
ave been built in the neighborhood during the past several years with the monthly rent for a two-bedroom unit going at around $2,000, without utilities.
“In order to spend 30 percent of income on housing costs, a family would need to earn at least $76,000 to afford this rent – a much higher income level than many hard working families in Chelsea earn,” read a statement from TND.
TND also indicated that they’ve reached out to neighbors on their list and who came to the October meeting in an e-mail this week that details the above plans for the Club.
After a fast and furious opposition emerged from Mill Hill neighbors to the 60-unit affordable housing apartment building proposed at the French Club over the past month, The Neighborhood Developers said it will take comments to heart, but defended the need for affordable housing in that neighborhood.
“We’ll spend the next month revising our plans and hopefully correct the problem areas and address them and continue our effort to create affordable housing for people who are living her and want to continue living her, and simply continuing Chelsea’s great revival,” said TND Director Ann Houston this week. “Clearly we’re a little surprised at the response because we know how much Chelsea needs affordable housing. We’ve been hearing from so many residents in Chelsea and city officials about the need for housing affordable to Chelsea residents who have been here. There is a growing concern about gentrification.”
She cited that the last affordable housing project they did in Chelsea garnered 1,200 applications – many more than the number of units available.
TND has been active in Chelsea for many years and successfully developed The Box District and other smaller projects in the central part of the city. However, when acquiring the French Club and its parking lot and beginning to develop near a much more traditional residential neighborhood – that being Mill Hill – the affordable housing developers ran into a wall of sudden opposition.
TND purchased the former Club for $975,000 in September 2014, and purchased the parking lot next door this past March. An extension of Spencer Avenue running between the Club and the parking lot was discontinued by the City Council in early May – and many neighbors have said they were not apprised of that change.
Hundreds of neighbors have signed petitions against the project, and many believe there is already too much affordable housing in Chelsea. Others have said they would like to see home ownership opportunities at the site.
Councillor Matt Frank, who initially supported the project, said last week that he has withdrawn that support because his constituents are so adamantly opposed to the project and because he doesn’t believe there was enough communication.
TND folks, however, said that the average income in Mill Hill is $57,000 and that’s well-within the limits for affordable housing. They also said that most of the development in that area of the City has been market rate housing, and other such market-rate developments threaten to drive up rents all over Chelsea.
“There has been right around the elementary school a fair amount of housing developed, but not for families or children,” said Houston. “We were and continue to be very excited to develop housing at this site that is really affordable to families in Chelsea and is able to get children right across the street to the Burke elementary complex. We do have to continue to make sure we have housing for people who have been in Chelsea and have been Chelsea residents and who we fear will be pushed out. We see a proposal for a 692-unit apartment complex that’s all market rate on Everett Avenue. That can help drive up rents across the community.”
Aside from that, though, Houston said they have heard Mill Hill loud and clear.
“We have heard concerns neighbors have raised and we’re taking them very, very seriously,” she said. “We wish we would have had the opportunity to talk outside a public meeting. We appreciate that didn’t happen and will find other opportunities to sit down with the neighbors.”
TND’s Emily Loomis said they believe there was good communication on the project, something TND has been criticized about.
She said they knocked on doors, had conversations and answered questions. If no one answered the door, they left fliers with information about the proposal.
Another point of contention has been the discontinued street on Spencer Avenue, which many Mill Hill residents use to get to the City Hall area without having to go all the way down Broadway.
“I’m not sure if people realize there’s still a cut through on Toomey Street,” Houston said. “Taking the street was in line with the other sorts of actions the City has done to help development, particularly private development. I am sure if you’re used to the cut-through, it feels significant, but taking Toomey Street curve will quickly become the normal driving pattern and won’t represent a problem.”
Finally, TND said it didn’t believe there were any conflicts of interest that played a part in the development of the French Club.
Planning Board Chair Tuck Willis is on the Board of Directors for TND and, thus, was listed on the deed for the entity that purchased the French Club. That said, Willis recused himself from the proceedings, and other members of the Planning Board with ties to TND are simply volunteers.
“I think the state Conflict of Interest law is very, very clear and mean to protect against these things,” she said. “I think you saw that when the one member with ties to TND recused himself in a good and forthright manner. One other member of the Planning Board volunteers with TND (Henry Wilson) and was frankly one of our toughest questioners. I noted members nodding in support of neighbors. I am sure when they’re ready to make a decision, they’ll make an unbiased suggestion…We don’t think we have a tight ‘in’ with either of the boards. We think people have been operating in a very forthright manner.”
The matter will be addressed at the Zoning Board of Appeals on July 14, and then again at the Planning Board on July 28.
As the new Silver Line Station soon begins to take shape in the Box District at the northern end of Highland Street later this year or early next year, City officials predict a daily exodus of workers and commuters coming down the street and to the station.
Such a walk, right now, is no hard ordeal – aside from the steep hill and long staircase – but it’s not a pretty walk, and what isn’t in disrepair isn’t exactly inspiring. Highland Street is one of the few north and south streets in the densely populated east side of the city that runs unobstructed for pedestrians from the waterfront to the train tracks – where there will soon be a new station.
Keeping all of that in mind, City planners have put together a cobbling of plans to make the Highland Street corridor more interesting, more pedestrian friendly and a true connecting point for residents on either side of the hill.
The plan, according to Planner John DePriest, is known as the Highland Greenway.
Already, on April 30, the City held a meeting to detail the plans underway for the proposed project, which will begin construction, it is hoped, in July.
The centerpiece of that project will be the rehabilitation of Bellingham Hill Park, but will also include a small passive park at 97 Library St. and improvements to the Highland Stairs. Those improvements will be connected with a greening of the whole pathway, along with the existing Box District Park at the corner of Highland and Gerrish (which is only two years old).
“We want to make a visual connection to the Greenway but also connect the neighborhood to the new Silver Line Station,” said DePriest. “We’ve started to design process for Bellingham Hill park, which has to be done by June 30, 2016. We plan to put a new park at 97 Library St. and improve the stairs. In between those areas and down to the Box District Silver Line Station, we’ll make streetscape improvements to create a green corridor. We’ll have more trees and we’ll trim the trees on the stairs. We’ll do crosswalks and better signage.”
Design of Bellingham Hill Park is to conclude in June, and construction is expected to begin in July – with a goal of finishing this fall. The park project will cost $800,000, with half of that being picked up via a state grant.
Ann Houston, executive director of The Neighborhood Developers (TND), said the Greenway project came out of a plan that her organization helped create in 2009 – known as the Bellingham Hill Action Plan. With a big stake in the properties along Highland Street and in the Box District, TND is more than happy to see the idea sprout.
“We’re just delighted it’s now coming into fruition,” said Houston. “Highland is such an important corridor. It does connect the Shurtleff-Bellingham neighborhood, but it could definitely use some greening. That would definitely help things. This project is terrific and an important piece in improving this neighborhood and making it a really pleasant place.”
One challenge identified by Houston and Emily Loomis, also of TND, is the fact that the stairs lie right int he middle of the plan. The stairs were implemented several years ago and were certainly an improvement, but the last chapter on making the stairs perfect has yet to be written.
It is hoped that it will be written with the current project.
“It’s such a challenge there particularly because of it’s grade and the narrow size of the area,” said Loomis. “I think there is consensus around making it more attractive, clean and safe.”
“They are a real challenge,” added Houston. “We talked about this a great deal during our action plan. The greatest challenge of them being that they’re pretty steep…I don’t know what the answer is, but there has been some ideas around terracing it for gardening, or even terracing it for resting places.”
That, however, is just Phase 1 of the overall idea.
The second phase, DePriest said, is about the other side of the hill – connecting Bellingham Hill Park to the waterfront and, ultimately, the PORT Park on Marginal Street.
Already, sidewalk improvements are underway this spring to help get that part of the phase 2 up and running.
Nothing is set in stone just yet for how Phase 2 will look or when it will happen.
All that’s known now is that the City doesn’t want to stop at the top of the hill.
“The bigger idea is to connect the entire area down to the PORT Park on Marginal Street so that there’s one uniform corridor making it very easy to go back and forth,” he said. “That, however, will be the subject of a future grant.”
EPA Regional Administrator Curt Spalding presented stakeholders in the Chelsea Thrives initiative with a check for $25,000 to expand the work of coalition partners in the Shurtleff Bellingham neighborhood to include testing new methods to fight asthma. More than 30 collaborators, including city, state and federal officials, joined Spalding at Bosson Park to celebrate the award.
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) awarded a coalition led by The Neighborhood Developers with a $25,000 grant earlier this month to promote asthma health education.
The grant was one of 14 given in New England to fund community projects addressing environmental and public health issues in New England. The Chelsea grant will support a project to pilot and test three approaches to community-based asthma health education, targeting primarily low-income, largely immigrant households in the Shurtleff Bellingham Neighborhood.
“This Healthy Community Grant will get trained professionals working directly with residents to reduce asthma triggers in the home and help improve children’s health in Chelsea,” said Curt Spalding EPA Regional Administrator at the check presentation ceremony held in Bosson Park. “TND and its partners are working locally to protect human health and the environment here in Chelsea and I look forward to seeing the results of their efforts.”
Said City Manager Jay Ash, “Chelsea, and especially our children, is lucky to have EPA empowering us to make a difference in the lives of our families and maybe, through replication of what we hope is a successful initiative, families across the country. And, while the EPA financial commitment isn’t big, in terms of grant dollars, the impacts on the health and financial well-being of our families, both short and long-term, and the amount of additional funding we may be able to leverage as a result of our empirical work is sure to provide a return on investment that all of us would be pleased to have in our own portfolios.”
TND’s Melissa Walsh said she was glad to see the EPA get involved in asthma issues in Chelsea.
“EPA has meant such a great deal to the health and well-being of Chelsea already, and is now stepping up to help us help our youngest avoid an avoidable infliction: asthma,” said Walsh, Community Engagement Coordinator at TND. “Thanks to this latest EPA grant, we’ll be able to engage residents, train inspectors, develop programming and track our results in making our homes safer and our kids healthier. What could be a more worthwhile cause?”
Jeanette McWilliams, administrative director at MGH Chelsea Healthcare Center, said, “Through this Healthy Communities grant with a focus on Healthy Indoor Environments, EPA is helping three key partners to take a deeper approach to address the underlying causes of asthma symptoms among children. This funding will allow MGH Chelsea to test education strategies that are focused on patients’ and families home settings, with the additional aim to bring families together who are residents in the same neighborhood and are all facing the issue of childhood asthma. Our hope is that children will be healthier as a result of this collaboration, and that families will build lasting support systems in the place where they live.”
School Committeewoman Lucia Henriquez said she was glad to see EPA championing the cause.
“Families in this neighborhood need champions, and EPA is proving to be one. I’m grateful, we’re all grateful for EPA’s willingness to create healthier housing options and better health for all of us, and especially our children, in this neighborhood.”
The Healthy Communities Grant Program focuses on identifying projects in target investment areas, including areas with environmental justice, areas with sensitive populations, and areas that are vulnerable to impacts to climate change, stormwater runoff. Funding from the program benefits projects in communities that will, help communities understand and reduce environmental and human health risks, increase collaboration through community based projects, build institutional and community capacity to understand and solve environmental and public health problems like asthma and climate change, or achieve measurable environmental and public health results.
“It’s great to have a partner like EPA working in places like Chelsea and making such a huge difference on the health of our residents and the vitality of our community. I’m pleased to support such an effort and the overall work of TND, its partners and the City of Chelsea to continue to innovate and succeed in producing meaningful advancements in the Shurtleff Bellingham neighborhood and beyond,” stated Congressman Michael Capuano.
EPA’s grant coincides with additional work being performed in the Shurtleff Bellingham neighborhood under the community’s Chelsea Thrives program. That program, which is the local version of the Federal Reserve Bank of Boston’s Working Cities Challenge initiative, seeks to produce prosperity, quality of life and physical improvements to Shurtleff Bellingham. Thirty partners, including City government, are working on numerous initiatives and the development of a data system to track the local success.
“We’re on the leading edge of a new, more comprehensive and coordinated approach to lifting the status of once struggling neighborhoods throughout the state and country. We’re already seeing success on our local effort and believe that partners like EPA will deepen and accelerate that success,” concluded Ash.
The Urban Land Institute (ULI) Terwilliger Center for Housing has selected The Neighborhood Developers’ (TND) Box District as a winner of this year’s Jack Kemp Excellence in Affordable and Workforce Housing Award.
ULI’s Terwilliger Center celebrates and promotes the exemplary efforts of real estate and public policy leaders from across the country who are working to expand affordable and workforce housing opportunities. The award was delivered in New York at ULI’s national conference.
The Box District includes 248 new mixed-income apartments and condominiums plus a new park that transformed a former blighted industrial site in Chelsea using a mix of new construction, adaptive reuse of old factories and modular building methods. The redevelopment of the Box District, now a smart growth district that will soon be home to a new Silver Line transit stop, is a result of long-term collaboration between The Neighborhood Developers, Mitchell Properties, and the City of Chelsea. The phased development began with The Neighborhood Developer’s purchase of a vacant factory in the district in 2006.
Prior to TND’s investment in creating the new neighborhood, as box and mattress manufacturers shut down or relocated, the industrial area, near the heart of downtown Chelsea, lay dormant. Chelsea City Manager Jay Ash, a native of Chelsea, often recalls how his mother wouldn’t let him play in the area due to safety concerns. Today many children play in the Box District’s new public park.
The project has benefitted from a series of state initiatives designed to spur redevelopment; including most recently the Housing Development Investment Program to spur market rate housing, coupled with a new Massachusetts Housing Investment Corporation loan program that encourages Smart Growth and transit-oriented development. Since the opening of the first apartments in 2008, rental apartments and condos have filled up in spite of a stalled housing market, and the first market-rate development, Atlas Lofts, reached full occupancy a year ahead of schedule. After full build out later this year, 51 percent of the new homes will be market rate, at rent levels previously unheard of for this neighborhood.
The ULI is a global nonprofit education and research institute.
TND’s Ann Houston stated, “We’re incredibly humbled to receive this award from the ULI. Each Box District partner brought skills and resources to the project and a shared vision for the area’s revitalization. That vision saw us through a good number of challenges including the 2008 housing downturn. We’ve made huge inroads into improving the safety, mixed-income housing availability, green space, and public amenities to what was once abandoned part of the city. This neighborhood has helped to set a new standard for Chelsea, and we’re proud to lead the charge.”
The Neighborhood Developers received the ULI award just one week after hosting Federal Reserve Chair Yellen at their offices in Chelsea.
Founded in 1979, TND spent the first 25 years developing great, affordable places to live in Chelsea. In 2006, TND expanded its emphasis from solely building affordable homes to building vital neighborhoods, focusing on both the people and the place. Its programs are delivered in Chelsea and Revere.
We are certainly very honored to have Federal Reserve Chair Janet Yellen visiting our city.
Mrs. Yellen is an international figure and a leader of the world’s economy. She has produced outstanding accomplishments in her field and is admired and respected by economists and financial professionals across the globe. She has studied and taught at the world’s most prestigious institutions, having graduated summa cum laude from Brown University and having received her Ph.D in economics from Yale University. Mrs. Yellen was also an assistant professor at Harvard and a lecturer at The London School of Economics.
Mrs. Yellen was set to tour the city and visit CONNECT, a consortium of local organizations in Chelsea’s The Neighborhood Developers (TND) headquarters. TND Director Ann Huston understands the magnitude of having an international figure here, saying that Yellen’s visit is the biggest event in her organization’s history.
We echo City Manager Jay Ash’s excitement in having the opportunity to show our city to Chair Yellen. Ash has guided our community to the national All-America City Award and this is another proud day for a city that has been receiving consistent, national recognition for its programs and organizations’ collaborative efforts.
Mrs. Yellen’s visit to Chelsea puts our outstanding CONNECT program in the national spotlight. We’re sure Chair Yellen will enjoy hearing about the success of this fine program that helps residents who are trying to find employment opportunities.
Thank you, Chair Yellen, for honoring our city with your visit.